Every year, Baltimore throws the Artscape festival—it's touted as the largest art festival in America. It's also held on the hottest week of the year, usually the last week in July. It's one of my favorite times in Baltimore, both in a see-and-be seen kind of way, but also because I've been lucky enough to be a part of some crazy, exceptional art that could only happen in Baltimore, in the dead of Summer.
Let's see...there was the summer I was part of Meilissa Webb's Goods of the Woods where I was a garden gnome and only spoke gibberish for a weekend. There was the Summer that I delivered love letters to strangers in Spoon Popkin's Love Letters...there was the Summer I ran a Monster Karaoke booth along with the majestic Thunderupagus (Kristen Anchor and Andrea Shearer). Good summer fun.
So, when Melissa Webb asked me to collaborate with her on an Artscape project in 2015, how could I say no?
Lazy River was a setting of 15 participatory installations, sculptures, and roving live performances along a visually implied “lazy river.” Think of the heyday of water parks in the 80's, usually with the word "WILD" or "SPLASH" in their names.
The figure that I had been doodling on and off again from college was a perfect fit. I knew immediately what I had to do. I drew the lazy guy on a napkin (literally, I think) and sent a photo of it to Melissa. That was it.
I worked closely with Melissa and co-curator Maggie Villegas to design wayfinding, site maps and other "branded elements" for Lazy River. It was a hoot. I'm a big fan of these hand-drawn maps for mom-and-pop theme parks like the now-abandoned The Enchanted Forest here in Baltimore. Someone should start up mom-and-pop theme parks again.
We designed maps, and souvenir hats for kids to color...man, we cut and painted that sign and everything ourselves! It's satisfying to do it that way! Working with people who willingly share your absurdity is the greatest thing in the world.
I was tickled pink to see this doodle of over 20 years suddenly become real. It was like a really strange analog of Pygmalion or something. I wanted to see how far I could go with the whole thing, so I decided to make a mascot.
Explaining what I wanted to make was a sort of like how I imagine people on the business end of a Longmont Potion Castle prank call must feel like. I had to call a lot of companies all over the states before landing on Jet Creations in Alexandria VA. They were very patient.
Many phone calls, and an express package from China later, Lazy Guy came to Baltimore.
The entire event was amazing, with amazing artists and amazing visitors. Working Lazy River was a momentously gratifying experience. I got to run around in 100-degree weather in a giant inflatable mascot. I got to see Parliament-Funkadelic that weekend. And, best part, I got to see people smile because of something I made.
Working at Artscape is tough, often thankless work. It's hot, it's crowded, and often you are sharing with an audience that doesn't "get" you or the art you are presenting. The cool thing is you get to work with people who do. Putting on events like this requires LOTS of people, and when you're all at the same level, it's a great thing.
And if the people you work with make you a cake in the shape of a doodle you made over 20 years ago? Life can be no sweeter.
Thanks and a tip o' the blog to Melissa Webb and Spoon Popkin